Looking at 2009...New Words from an "Old" Friend
By Lyle Fitzsimmons,
Contributing Boxing Editor
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
I heard from my old friend Tom Thompson the other day.
He's only an "old" friend in the newfangled 21st century definition of the word...seeing how we've never actually met, we've spoken just twice and the tangible structure of our relationship has been largely built on a series of cyber debates over Presidential politics, college football and Bruce Springsteen music.
But above all else, Tom and I like to "talk" boxing.
And while I've had to endure his sometimes suspect views on Floyd Mayweather Jr. (he picked Gatti), Winky Wright (he picked Trinidad) and Bernard Hopkins (he picked Tarver) over the years, he's also been right often enough to warrant the occasional return chat.
So when pressed for an idea on what to include in my holiday week column from a Christmas retreat in the shockingly frigid Smoky Mountains, I decided to drop a line to the Thompson family compound in Louisiana and pick his brain as the calendar flipped one day closer to 2009.
In the interest of full disclosure - and though his full-time pursuits make him more "business guru" than ace journalist or in-ring expert - he did give the latter two a try with the launch of the diamond-in-the-rough TigerBoxing.com Web site in the fall of 2004.
Though "Tiger" never got the exposure of many counterparts elsewhere on the Internet, it dwarfed all but a few in terms of quality, both through the acumen of its writers - Kieran Mulvaney, Kevin Iole, and, well...me, for example - and its pursuit of compelling feature content rather than hit-and-run opinion.
Any keyboard-clicking clown in his pajamas can deliver the latter.
It takes a little more - creativity, knowledge, talent...among others - to supply the former.
Unfortunately, the site encountered an untimely obstacle too soon after its birth, when Tom, his family and his state were jolted by a dose of reality - in the form of Hurricane Katrina - that prompted relocation, rebuilding and the re-channeling of energies toward endeavors far more meaningful.
To that end, I'm happy to say all is well in his little slice of the world three years later.
Still, a damaged Tiger only foundered after New Orleans and its residents restarted their lives, never recapturing early momentum and dying a far too uncelebrated death in late 2007.
"It was a great site. It really was," Thompson said. "We had a lot of things going for us right from the start, but it's tough when things like that happen when you're trying to build an audience. I still love boxing, though, and I'll always be interested in seeing it survive."
And coming off a 2008 that saw a pound-for-pound power emergence by Manny Pacquiao, completion of a Hall of Fame credentials by Joe Calzaghe and the last glove-wearing stand by promotional conglomerate Oscar De La Hoya, Tom's got a few items on his agenda to ensure the sport's well-being.
Alas, none of them, to his chagrin, include a BCS title for LSU - Tiger's gridiron namesake.
"I see a lot of things happening next year, and all of it's good stuff," he said. "I think Manny has a big year with Hatton and then Mayweather. I think Margarito destroys Mosley and gets another win in Cotto II. And I think somebody finally catches up with 'Nard.
"There are a lot of great fighters who can make a lot of great fights."
I concur with my former colleague's analysis while countering with a few guesses of my own:
1. WLADIMIR KLITSCHKO CLEANS UP THE HEAVIES - Though the recent destruction of Hasim Rahman showed little and proved nothing, it doesn't mean "Dr. Steelhammer's" claim on the keys to the division's front door is any less legitimate.
Be it with an unbeaten Povetkin, an unqualified Arreola or an untested Haye...expect Wlad to encounter - and topple - his biggest challenge in 2009, while I continue to vainly beat the drum for a match with Champion No. 1A, his brother Vitali.
2. DAWSON LURES CALZAGHE BACK INTO THE RING - The unnecessary rematch with Antonio Tarver this spring will serve a pair of purposes for the undefeated Connecticut light heavyweight.
First, it'll clearly prove his superiority over the self-proclaimed king of the rematches. And second, it'll raise his profile just enough to lend financial credence to calls for a battle of unbeatens with the "am I retired or am I still fighting" superstar from Wales. The guess here is that it's on for late next summer.
3. JUNIOR FIGHTS ONE LAST TIME IN PENSACOLA - Speaking of light heavyweights and Calzaghe and undisputed divisional dominance, the last man to hold a clear handle on the 175-pounders will likely call it quits in 2009... if he hasn't already.
Beaten to a bloody mess by "Super Joe" in New York last month, Mister Jones wasn't able to appear at the post-fight presser, but his manager and promoter each said at least one last go-round before the home folks in Florida was a priority. Hopkins-Jones II, anyone?
4. OSCAR'S FINISHED...FLOYD RETURNS - In spite of the predictable post-fight chatter about overtraining and poor nutrition and whose fault it all was, I really don't expect De La Hoya to rationalize his way into another ring appearance this year.
That said, I do expect the recent goings-on in Las Vegas to prompt his previous conqueror out of the doldrums and back into the ring to simultaneously challenge pay-per-view stratospheres and legions of naysayers. It says here he wins by decision.
5. PAVLIK AGREES TO FIGHT PAUL WILLIAMS - I hate your people. You hate my people. We'll never do business again. Yeah, yeah...sure, sure. Right up until it makes no sense not to let bygones be bygones and settle the issues in the ring.
Let's face it, Pavlik is damaged goods and needs a big-ticket event to restore his pre-Bernard persona. And Williams is a specimen looking for a new foil now that Margarito has turned him down. No offense to Marco Antonio Rubio, but this one needs to happen now.
OK, that's it folks. Discuss amongst yourselves and feel free to concoct your own.
And in the meantime...a Happy Christmahanakwanzolstice to all.
Oh, and P.S...on Valuev-Holyfield...I told you so.
* * * * * * * * * *
This weeks title-fight capsule:
WBA flyweight title - Hiroshima, Japan
Takefumi Sakata (champion) vs. Denkaosan Kaovichit (No. 1 contender)
Sakata (33-4-2, 15 KO): Fifth title defense; drew with Kaovichit in November 2007
Kaovichit (45-1-1, 19 KO): Winless in two title fights; unbeaten in 45 non- title fights
FitzHitz says: Sakata by decision
Last week's record: 3-0
Overall picks record: 53-20
Lyle Fitzsimmons is a 20-year veteran of sports journalism, a full voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and a periodic contributor to "The Drive with Dave Smith" on KLAA radio (am830klaa.com) and "Cold Hard Sports" on the MVN network (coldhardsports.com). Reach him via e-mail at email@example.com.